Woman rescues koala from Australian wildfire using shirt off her back

WATCH: A koala that was badly hurt by Australian wildfires was rescued by a passerby on Tuesday.

NOTE: This article contains a photo that might be too graphic for some readers. Please read at your own discretion.

Australians’ hearts are breaking for Lewis, a badly burned koala that a grandmother rescued from a raging wildfire in the state of New South Wales.

The koala was still in serious condition at an animal hospital on Wednesday following a dramatic rescue that made headlines across the country.


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Toni Doherty was driving past the wildfire near Port Macquarie on Tuesday when she saw the koala amid the flames. The animal was screaming.

“I jumped out of the car and went straight to him,” Doherty told Australia’s 9 News. “I knew if we didn’t get him down from the tree, he would have been up there amongst the flames.”

Video recorded by a witness shows Doherty taking off her shirt, wrapping it around the koala and plucking the scared animal off a tree. She then carries the koala back to her car and douses him with water to soothe his burns.

Toni Doherty holds a koala she saved from a bushfire in Australia. She named the animal Lewis.

Toni Doherty holds a koala she saved from a bushfire in Australia. She named the animal Lewis.

Reuters

Officials at the Port Macquarie animal hospital say it’s unclear if Lewis the koala will survive.

“He is probably 50-50 at this stage,” a spokesperson told 9 News. “He has been bandaged and given antibiotics, but will take a lot of looking after if he pulls through.”

Doherty says she named the 14-year-old koala Lewis. She was reunited with the animal on Wednesday at the hospital.

The animal has won a following on social media, where people have been eagerly checking in to see if he will pull through.

“Lewis is a very lucky koala and his rescuer a HERO,” one user tweeted on Wednesday.

“I was in tears when I heard that poor koala cry out in pain,” tweeted another person.


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Many animal lovers have been leaving messages for Lewis on the koala hospital’s Facebook page.

Lewis is one of hundreds of koalas believed to have been injured or killed by wildfires in eastern Australia as the country enters its summer fire season.

Colin and Kristen Lucas used bottled water to rescue a burned koala last week after they found it sitting in the ashes of a fire.

“I ran home and grabbed two towels, a bag and a bottle of water for the little guy,” Colin told Storyful.

Video of the rescue shows the couple tending to the injured animal.

“You all right, little fella?” Colin asks in the video. “Oh mate, you’re badly burned, aren’t you?”

The couple turned the injured animal over to Koalas in Care for rehab.

Fire officials say 49 brushfires are raging in the state of New South Wales. Half of them have not been contained.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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